The Score

, The Work

April 15, 2008 4:44 PM

INDUSTRY UPDATE: Airline Turbulence

Posted by Brian Baxter

Updated April 15, 2008, at 4:44 p.m. ET

The aviation industry's got its share of troubles these days, stemming from record-high fuel and aircraft leasing costs, flight cancellations, and decreased demand. While some airlines are filing for bankruptcy protection, others are merging, and one recently left thousands of passengers stranded. Here we present a round-up of recent matters and the lawyers helping the airlines.

American Airlines Flight Cancellations

American Airlines is getting legal advice on last week's flight cancellations from its in-house lawyers, as we've just learned from parent company AMR's general counsel, Gary Kennedy. In an e-mail to, Kennedy confirmed that American's in-house legal department is handling any cancellation-related legal issues; he did not comment on the nature of those matters. American resumed regular operations on April 14 after a five-day period in which the Fort Worth-based airline canceled thousands of domestic and international flights. The move was forced by the FAA after it ordered American to perform emergency inspections and repairs to the wiring in the company’s Boeing MD-80 fleet. Customers affected by the cancellations have been offered refunds and other forms of compensation.

Delta / Northwest Merger

The long-anticipated merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines was finally announced on April 15. The deal is a $3.63 billion stock swap that according to press reports might trigger a United-Continental merger. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz corporate partners Edward Herlihy, Stephanie Seligman, Lawrence Makow, and executive compensation partner Michael Segal, advised Atlanta-based Delta on the deal, which would create the world's largest airline operating under the Delta brand name. Three members from Hunton & Williams's global competition practice—Washington, D.C.-based R. Hewitt Pate, D. Bruce Hoffman, and Brussels-based Michael Rosenthal—also counseled Delta on the deal. Advising Northwest were Simpson Thacher & Bartlett New York-based M&A partners Charles "Casey" Cogut, Wilson Neely, and Andrew Smith, tax partner Steven Todrys, executive compensation partner Brian Robbins, and IP partner Lori Lesser. O'Melveny & Myers antitrust partners Michael Antalics, David Beddow, Christine Wilson, and of counsel Timothy Muris also advised Northwest. Muris is cochair of the firm's antitrust and competition practice group. All are based in Washington, D.C.

Frontier Airlines Bankruptcy

On April 10 Denver-based Frontier Airlines filed for bankruptcy in U.S. district court in Manhattan. Davis Polk & Wardwell is Frontier's lead restructuring counsel. Partner Marshall Huebner—who helped Delta emerge from Chapter 11 in 2007—counsel Timothy Graulich, and associate Damian Schaible, all members of the firm's New York-based insolvency and restructuring group, are working on the matter. Corporate partner Daniel Kelly, Jr., based in Menlo Park, N.J., also is part of the team.

Oasis Hong Kong Airlines Bankruptcy

Oasis Hong Kong Airlines asked the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to appoint a provisional liquidator on April 9, shortly after the budget airline canceled all flights and ceased operations. The court appointed Edward Middleton and Patrick Cowley of KPMG International as provisional liquidators. Ian De Witt, a name partner and head of the insolvency and restructuring group at Tanner De Witt Solicitors—a multipractice Hong Kong shop—is handling the liquidation for Oasis, a long-haul carrier founded in February 2005.

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